Atrial fibrillation occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the
heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) to contract very quickly and irregularly
(fibrillate). Atrial fibrillation causes blood to gather in the atria because it
isn’t pumping completely into the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart).
Atrial fibrillation is the most common condition associated with the rate or rhythm
of the heartbeat (arrhythmia). Also known as afib, the condition affects more than
2.3 million people in the United States. More than 160,000 new cases are diagnosed
every year. Untreated, atrial fibrillation can raise the risk of stroke more than
five-fold and has also been shown to double the risk of mortality.
There are two main types of atrial fibrillation:
- Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation converts back and forth between
normal and abnormal rhythms
- Persistent or permanent atrial fibrillation is
when atrial fibrillation is present most of the time
In either case, delaying the treatment can make future treatment attempts less successful.
The UF physicians at the UF Health Jacksonville Cardiovascular Center are uniquely
qualified to diagnose and treat afib with access to the latest research and technologies
that help control the condition as quickly as possible, so you can get back to a
full, healthy life.
Video: About Atrial Fibrillation
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t experience any symptoms. Those who
do have symptoms may experience one or more of the following:
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Weakness or fatigue
- Trouble exercising
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Atrial fibrillation can go undetected for a long time because it does not typically
cause any pain or discomfort, or it may come and go over time. In fact, the main
symptoms of atrial fibrillation are fatigue, shortness of breath, poor exercise
tolerance, lightheadedness and racing heart.
The majority of patients with atrial fibrillation need some type of anti-coagulants
(blood thinners) to lower their risk of stroke. Patients who are older and have
coexisting cardiac or vascular conditions are at a higher risk. Our physicians will
be able to accurately determine the level of this risk and prescribe an appropriate
There are a number of risk factors associated with atrial fibrillation. People with
one or more of the following conditions have a much higher chance of developing
afib than the general population:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid problems
- Atherosclerotic heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation
When you come to UF Health Cardiovascular Center, our cardiologists will discuss
your symptoms with you and make an assessment. If our physicians suspect you may
have atrial fibrillation, they may suggest one or more of the following tests:
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) is the primary method for diagnosing
atrial fibrillation. It measures the activity of your heart.
- A blood test can help rule out a thyroid problem or other substances
in your blood that could be causing the atrial fibrillation.
- A chest X-ray can help determine if you have another condition
in your lungs that could be causing your symptoms.
- A Holter monitor assesses your heart’s activity over a longer period
of time (usually at least 24 hours) to give your doctor a fuller picture of your
- An echocardiogram provides video images of your heart in motion
so your doctor can determine if you have an underlying structural heart disease.
Once our physicians have diagnosed your condition, we will work with you to develop
an individualized treatment plan.
Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
If you have atrial fibrillation, your symptoms may come and go over time, or they
may be persistent. Your cardiologist will discuss your symptoms with you so he or
she can determine proper treatment based on your unique needs. The treatment your
cardiologist recommends will depend on:
- How long you’ve had atrial fibrillation
- Severity of your symptoms
- The underlying cause of your atrial fibrillation
In general, the goals of treatment of this condition are to reset the rhythm of
your heart, control your heart rate and prevent blood clots. Our physicians tailor
a specific therapy on an individual basis, offering many advanced and state-of-the-art
treatment options, including:
Direct-current cardioversion (DCCV) uses electric shock to momentarily
stop — and then restart — your heart’s activity. This shock is delivered
via paddles or patches on your chest while you are sedated.
Drug-induced cardioversion uses medications known as anti-arrhythmics
to help correct your heartbeat. These medications may be delivered orally (by mouth)
or intravenously (by vein).
Pacemaker (PPM) implantation, which places a small device in the
chest or abdomen to help control heart rhythms with low-energy electrical pulses.
Radiofrequency catheter ablation, a procedure that uses a catheter
in your blood vessels to reach your heart and uses a high-frequency radio pulse
to generate heat to alter heart tissue, stopping the arrhythmia.
Minimally invasive surgical ablation (also known as a mini-maze
procedure), which uses small incisions in your chest to reach your
heart with an ablation device to alter the heart tissue.
Open surgical (maze) procedures, during which the chest cavity
is opened to reach the heart and a number of incisions are made on the left and
right atria to form scar tissue. The scar tissue does conduct electricity and interrupts
To prevent blood clots, your doctor may recommend a blood-thinning medication, such
as warfarin. Warfarin is a powerful blood thinner that can cause dangerous bleeding.
You will need to be regularly monitored if you are taking this medication. There
are other, newer types of blood-thinning medications (such as Pradaxa, Xarelto or
Eliquis) that your doctor may alternatively prescribe.
Why Choose UF Health Jacksonville for Treatment
The UF Health Cardiovascular Center includes internationally recognized physicians
who are leaders in cardiac care, research and education. Our cardiologists, as faculty
of the University of Florida
Division of Cardiology – Jacksonville, participate in numerous national
and international clinical trials
and offer accredited fellowship training programs in
These faculty physicians provide services at the UF Health
Cardiovascular Center – Jacksonville, which has fully integrated,
comprehensive heart programs, including a coronary
interventional program, nuclear program, electrophysiology
program, non-invasive program
and peripheral interventional program.
UF Health Jacksonville is renowned for treating patients with complex diseases and
being on the forefront of advancing the science of interventional cardiology. Using
the most sophisticated equipment available, the center offers state-of-the-art diagnostic,
therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services. Many leading-edge interventional
therapies are offered in Northeast Florida only at the UF Health Cardiovascular
Center – Jacksonville.
Jacksonville Atrial Fibrillation Specialists
Atrial Fibrillation Program Locations
5th Floor, Ambulatory Care Center
655 West 8th Street
Jacksonville, FL 32209
15255 Max Leggett Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32218
201 B Lakeshore Point
St. Marys, GA 31558